La Cancha recently had the pleasure of conducting an exclusive interview with Mr. Dick Wilson, Executive Director of the American Youth Soccer Organization.  The AYSO having more than 630,000 registered members, is one of the largest youth soccer organizations in America. Below Director Wilson provides us with his views on the state of youth soccer in America, and expresses the basic difference between the AYSO and other youth soccer organizations . He also tell us why the sport of soccer is becoming increasing attractive to both parents and participants. 


Q: Mr Wilson, can you tell our readers about the organization and what it is you do as the Executive Director of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO)?
A: Well, I've been involved with the AYSO since 1967. I served quite a few terms on it's national board of directors. I became the National Executive Director in 1971. But basically I oversee the on-site staff at our national support center which encompasses 55 people. I don't  know how much information you have already but I can tell you we are very strong on the educational side.  The personnel assigned to the training of the administrators, coaches, and referee on how to work with youth compromises probably the largest portion of our staff.  

Q: How long has the AYSO been in business and what is it's primary goal?
A: The organization started in 1964. Well,  the primary goal is to promote the sport of soccer. But child development, particularly providing an opportunity youth to participate in a positive fun filled environment is equal to our desire to support the sport.  We would like to provide the child a chance to participate in a less competitive, win oriented atmosphere unlike many other youth sports and  youth soccer organizations. We require that teams be balanced; and that teams not remain intact from year to year, that they be dissolved and totally reconstituted in the next season. This is done to preclude the adults from building their own dynasty "win at all cost" situations.

Q: Where does the organization derive it's funding?
A:  Well, the bulk of the funding comes from registration fees from the participating youth. Bit we do have up to 20 national sponsors and  licensees that make a significant contribution to what we're trying to do.  Most of those funds are used towards providing the training for our instructors.

Q: Is the AYSO in every state in the U.S., and how many members are there?
A: Although there have been some programs which have started and not continued like any other program but I believe we are active today in 46-47 states.  At this moment we have somewhere between over 600 - 630, 000 registered youth with another group of coaches, referees and other volunteer staff that number at around 250, 000.

Q: How can persons reading this article contribute to the organization.
A: Well, some people that contribute to the United Way designate that a portion of there funds go to us. People will make contributions at work too and designate that the funds go to us.  Some people have make individual contributions as well.

Q: Have there been any major players that you can think of that have come out of the AYSO program?
A: Oh yes, past participants have included members of the past four or five World Cup national teams. Cobi Jones, Marcelo Balboa and Eric Wynalda are a few of the most notable. In addition, we have been well represented on the women's national team too with three or four persons being products of our organization. Also on that note, one of the things that we are particularly proud of is that we have been able to increase the girls' participation. We probably have 30% girl membership but our goal is to have 50% participation.  We have already reached the 50% mark in several communities.already. But Florida for example with it's girls participation at 22% , provides us with the challenge of  getting more girls involved.  As you know, soccer is a sport were girls can compete very handily.

Q: How do you compare the American youth soccer program with those run in other countries. Do you see any similarities?
A: Well our youth girls that travel overseas will win half of there games while the boys win only one third.

Q: That leads to my next question .Why are the girls more successful in competition particularly the Americans on the adult level?
A: Well,  I think that the difference is that girls in Europe and for the most part the rest of the world did not play organized sports. The girls were not really accepted into organized sports in many European counties as a whole until twenty year or so ago, whereas the girls here have had 20-25 years.   

Q: What can you contribute to the growth of youth soccer in America?
A: One of the big reasons that many people overlook is the game itself and the environment in which it is played is less stressful.  For instance, many of the other sports are played in a gymnasium or baseball field where the individual players are always relatively close to the spectators.  The players hear the comments and negativisms that come from the spectators. Whereby in soccer I tell people that if  the kid's parent is a jerk, the kid can run to the other side of the field and they don't hear it.  But if you're standing there with a bat on your shoulder, or your shooting a free throw,  you can't get away that atmostphere.  I think generally, soccer provides excersize in a more stress free environmemt than most of the other traditonal sports.

Q: What personal satisfaction do you derive from running the organization?
A: Well, the satisfaction that I get is being able to be positive influence directly on over 630,000 kids.  I see my self as helping or being in charge the largest classroom in the world through our sports complex. Children learn life-long experiences playing sports.  They are more likely to remember the name of their coach than their 5th grade school teacher. In sports, we are a stronger role model image to the child. And to be a part of that for so many years is the gratification that I get.

Special thanks to Amy Williams, AYSO Public Relations Associate who assisted enormously by providing the brochures which were utilized in producing the below links.  It is recomended however that you contact the AYSO diirectly if you have any further questions.
(800) USA-AYSO / (310) 643-6455 / FAX (310) 643-5310

 Soccer Posters | Videos | Magazines

(1) History of The AYSO                                
(2) Services and Benefits
(3) AYSO National Team of Sponsors
(4) Where the Money Goes
(5) AYSO VIP Program - Kids with Special Needs
(7) Facts & Figures
(8) Links to AYSO Regional Websites |ADD URL (Link Instructions)

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